Who doesn’t love free stuff on the internet? The free web is one of the hallmarks of our generation, but it also comes with a notable drawback: advertisements.
Ad blockers are the obvious solution to unwanted ads on the web. Paid ad blockers are typically the best option if you want something that works the best, but many free ad blockers might just get the job done for you.
Below, you’ll find our list of the best free ad blockers available. No ad blocker is perfect, however, so you’ll find you may need to try out multiple options to find the right fit.
Note: If all you’re looking to do is get rid of annoying pop-up advertisements, check out our guide on the best popup ad blockers.
Types of ads and ranking methods
Not only are there multiple types of advertisements you might run into, there are multiple ways to block advertisements. Ultimately, how an ad-blocker goes about blocking ads does not matter so much as long as it doesn’t impede your ability to effectively browse the web and doesn’t invade your privacy. Additionally, a good ad blocker will block most types of ads.
When researching the best free ad blockers, we looked for the following criteria
- Always free, without a paywall for important features
- Good user ratings
- Do not require an account to use services
- Recently updated (within the past 12 months)
- Readily available as a plugin for at least one browser or operating system
- Blocks “display ads” (floating, pop-up, banner, video, static image, wallpaper, text ads)
- Blocks streaming video ads (such as on YouTube)
We initially also tested for prestitial and interstitial ads (those that load a screen before your content and often include a countdown). However, since Google launched its built-in ad blocker to Chrome and began punishing sites in Google searches for unfavorable ad practices, most reputable sites have reduced or eliminated this style of advertisement, making them difficult to find for effective testing. We only mention these where available, but did not include them in ratings considerations.
Particularly, our test used a few select sites with various ad types to test. Those included Forbes.com, Fark.com, YouTube, and OrlandoSentinel.com. In the case of Orlando Sentinel, we found that that website utilizes fairly aggressive advertisements that most ad blockers struggle to block. In fact, only a few ad blockers on our list effectively blocked all ads on Orlando Sentinel.
The free ad blockers listed below did not need to meet all of the criteria to make the list, but as many as possible. We scored each free ad blocker based on those criteria and assigned a score based on effectiveness. Additionally, with the exception of the Stands Fair Adblocker, all of the adblockers listed below are open source software.
Best Ad Blockers- Browser plugins and apps
Your best ad blocking option is to install a browser plugin or utilize a web browser that already has a built-in blocker. Browser plugins or built-in ad blockers can interact with the websites you’re using much more accurately than a standalone program operating on your computer in the background.
This Chrome-only ad blocker is a low-impact plugin that does exactly what it’s intended to do. You can block all types of ads using this plugin, with the most obvious limitation being that it’s only available as a Chrome addon. The Stands Fair AdBlocker is not designed for wholesale ad blocking, although you can use it for that. The company believes in fair advertising and encourages users to whitelist certain ads from different sites.
Thankfully, Stands lives up to its promise of blocking ads. That included the more aggressive advertisements found on Orlando Sentinel, as well as other display ads, autoplay video ads, and ads on YouTube.
Best features: Block ads on Facebook and search ads on Google.
Works with: Chrome
To its credit, AdGuard AdBlock does exactly what you want it to do. You can block all of the types of advertisements that we tested, which is positive. However, the biggest downside to this ad blocker is that it has a premium version. However—and here’s the odd part—it’s hard to tell what features are actually locked behind the paywall. AdGuard is not very forthcoming on that end, as it doesn’t utilize the industry-standard comparison chart to show you what you get free and what you get paid. There’s little in the way of support documents to help clear that up. That confusion didn’t cause me to knock it down a point; as far as I can tell, the free version is all you need and is not feature-limited.
Beyond that, users love AdGuard AdBlock. It has over 4 million downloads on Chrome with a high rating to match, making the free version a worthwhile option. And in our testing, this was one of the only ad blockers that not only effectively blocked the ads on Orlando Sentinel, but even blocked the advertisement frames with the word “advertisement” that most others still allowed to load.
Best features: “Inverted whitelisting” (change whitelist to blacklist), block self-promotion ads (sometimes doesn’t work)
Works with: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Microsoft Edge, Yandex.Opera
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive ad blocking experience without the hassle of plugins, the Opera browser is an excellent source. Opera is one of the fastest and most well-built browsers around and was among the first web browsers to have a built-in ad blocker.
Opera’s ad blocker also works well. After turning it on in the settings, you’ll find it blocks almost every ad you come across. The only exception I found was that it failed to block the interstitial ads common on Forbes (the quote ad that often pops up before reading an article). Most of the other ad blockers we tested did block that ad from Forbes. That said, Opera blocks every other ad type that we tested, including those on Orlando Sentinel.
Best feature: Built into web browser, easy whitelisting
Works with: Chrome
With over 10 million downloads on the Chrome browser alone, Adblock Plus is the most popular ad blocking software around. A free and open source project from the eye/o. Adblock Plus is the primary source code for a lot of other free ad blockers around here.
By default, Adblock Plus is not designed to block all ads, only those deemed intrusive or potentially malware. That means you’ll still run into some ads unless you fiddle with the settings. If you want to block out all ads (including autoplay video ads), you’ll need to go into options and de-select “Allow some non-intrusive advertising” at the bottom of the screen. Even then, ABP isn’t perfect. It blocked most of the ads I found, but was among the many ad blockers that couldn’t seem to deal with any of the ads on Orlando Sentinel. Unfortunately, even ABP’s “block element” feature failed to work on those as well. ABP is good and popular, but far from a perfect solution.
Best features: Includes anti-adblock filter
Works with: Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari, Yandex Browser, iOS, Android
The best thing about uBlock AdBlocker Plus is that it’s simple. Unlike some of the other options on the list, uBlock AdBlocker Plus has a very no-frills approach. Still, there are some things that the developer could do better. The plugin’s website, for example, is just a page with the plugin name on it. There’s no additional information. And while uBlock AdBlocker Plus effectively blocks out most advertisements, it still misses a few. It did not block an autoplay advertisement on one site we tested.
In the case where some ads still loaded, I was able to use the “block element” feature to block any specific item on the page. This was the case with the persistent Orlando Sentinel. Blocking the element worked and did not result in a page reload (as with some other ad blockers with element blocking).
It should be noted that uBlock Adblocker Plus is undoubtedly using open source code, but the developer does not list the plugin as open source.
Best features: Easy one-click whitelisting, element blocking
Works with: Chrome
The biggest drawback to this plugin is that it’s less user-friendly in the forward-facing interface. There are a few setting toggles in the UI, but most of the grunt work needs to be done in the actual settings. That said, uBlock Plus Adblocker effectively stopped all of the ads we tested, including autoplay videos.
Even with most of the settings sitting behind the settings menu, there’s a lot you can do with this blocker. Perhaps one of the biggest draws for uBlock Plus Adblocker is the inclusion of a large library of third-party filters. The plugin also has advanced user settings that allow you to create your own content filters, among other things.
uBlock Plus Adblocker takes care of most ads, but it did struggle with the Orlando Sentinel banner ads that tripped up most every other ad blocker we tested.
Best features: Large element filtering and malvertising filters
Works with: Chrome
After more than 9 million downloads and over 13,000 mostly positive reviews, it’s safe to say AdRemover for Google Chrome is one of the more popular ad removing plugins. This Chrome addon is also a good example of why a beautiful user interface isn’t always necessary to make a product popular. Case in point, AdRemover for Google Chrome isn’t entirely pretty:
Still, the plugin works well, although with a few more hiccups than the user ratings suggest. It blocked most of the advertisements we tested. However, I did find it let a few display ads through (particularly on Orlando Sentinel), and one site still displayed an interstitial advertisement. Additionally, there are few included filters and setting adjustments that can be made, providing very limited options for users.
AdRemover for Google Chrome may be popular and work to a reasonable degree, but it’s not perfect by any means.
Best feature: Youtube channel whitelisting
Works with: Chrome
If you’ve used or are interested in the uBlock Origin or AdBlock Plus style of ad blockers, this plugin may be for you. AdBlocker Genesis Plus is a fork of other popular plugins, meaning it uses the same basic code which alters enough to be a unique program. The UI is slightly different, but the ad blocking functionality is mostly the same. More notably, this ad blocker’s developer says he specifically removed tracking code from the original uBlock/AdBlock Plus code in order to ensure more privacy.
A good number of people have latched onto this ad blocker as well. It boasts a high rating (4.34 out of 5) and over 100,000 users. Although it uses the same code as some of the more popular options, I found Genesis Plus did not block all on-page ads. It blocked simple display ads on one tested site (Fark.com) but failed to block the large display ad on Orlando Sentinel. That ad can be blocked with the “block element” button, however.
Best features: Removal of tracking code for more privacy, easy whitelisting button, “block element” button
Works with: Chrome
Another open-source fork of Adblocker, Superblock – Adblocker will do most of what you need. The user interface for the plugin is simple with few options to adjust any of the settings from the interface. You’ll need to go into the settings to adjust more of the options.
The biggest drawback for this ad blocker is twofold. First, the lack of adjustable options makes it a little less worthwhile to use. Secondly, it does not block all display ads. In fact, it performed among the worst of the options listed here when trying to block ads on Orlando Sentinel. Still, you’ll be able to block video ads, most display ads, and ads on streaming video services like YouTube. Superblock – Adblocker is also well received and well used, with a 4.75 out of 5 rating and over 7 million Chrome users.
Best feature: Whitelisting for specific YouTube channels
Works with: Chrome
Another open source project, AdBlock Ultimate is good at removing most ads you might come across. In testing, it was able to dispel ads on YouTube and most display ads on various sites we tested. This ad blocker is also widely used and highly rated. It has a 4.84 out of 5 score from Google Chrome users, and over 600,000 installs.
That said, it still struggled with the Orlando Sentinel display ads alongside most of the other ad blockers we tested. It failed to block any of the ads on that site’s page. Nevertheless, for those looking to block most ads, this is a good option. Unfortunately, this plugin hasn’t been updated in just over a year, so its score gets knocked down a bit further.
Best features: Quick “block element” feature to instantly block any ads that get through
Works with: Chrome
The result is that you’ll block most display ads you come across. This included the aggressive Orlando Sentinel ads that most of the other options on our list struggled to block. However, NoScript does not block ads on videos at all, nor does it block most autoplay video ads. This makes it very good at blocking one type of ad, but poor at blocking others.
Best feature: Complete script blocking
Works with: Firefox
Why are Privacy Badger and Ghostery missing?
You may have heard of the popular ad blockers Privacy Badger and Ghostery. While we like and respect these two ad blockers, neither met our criteria based on how they function. Both of these plugins are not designed to block ads, specifically, but to deny website ads and other website elements that betray user privacy. As a result, both will block some ads some of the time but are primarily focused on privacy as internet security concerns.
That means you’ll likely not get the kind of ad blocking you might want from either of these plugins. Additionally, they don’t allow you much control over the type of ads they block, given their desire is to allow good ads to pass through and not block all ads wholesale.
Google Chrome Ad Blocker
Despite its bit of scaremongering, Google’s built-in ad blocker does not seem to do much. After putting it through the same tests as the other ad blockers listed above, it allowed every ad through that we could find. The built-in ad blocker is also very limited. Even finding a website where ads were blocked was difficult. And since the Chrome ad blocker is designed to only block certain types of ads, most ads you’ll find are not blocked, especially if they are ads sourced through Google’s own advertising wing.
It almost goes without saying, but Google’s ad blocker is somewhat of a joke. It might have forced some websites to clean up their act a little bit with more intentionally intrusive advertisements, but you really won’t be able to use to block ads.
A note on ad blockers and website revenue
Advertisements come in many flavors, from pop-up ads to on-page advertisements and more. Some websites have even started throwing up a separate page for their ads (such as Forbes) or using autoplay video ads as soon as the page loads.
In general, consumers hate ads for a variety of reasons, including:
- They can slow down page loading
- Many are now intrusive and annoying
- They can use up precious data for those with data-limited internet plans
- The ads are often irrelevant to user interests
- The ads may interrupt the browsing or viewing experience (particularly ads on video streaming sites like Hulu or Crunchyroll)
- Many ads contain tracking cookies that send user behavior back to third parties
The quality of ads has gotten so bad that even Google includes an ad blocker in its Chrome browser now, targeting “substandard ads.” Google’s intentions might be a bit suspect, however, as the company operates a large advertisement wing of its own and likely doesn’t block any Google-sourced ads from AdSense.
Still, thanks to ads, we can enjoy most of the content we watch and read online for free, but ads do have various drawbacks. They can also serve as a vector for computer viruses or third-party hacks.
Before you dive into blocking ads on your favorite websites, we’d like to point out that those websites you’re using often rely on ad revenue to survive. While many websites are now diversifying their revenue streams (often because of increased ad blocker usage), ad revenue is still a major source of income for many websites. The use of ad blockers resulted in an estimated loss of $15.8 billion for websites in recent years.
If you like the services you receive from certain websites that you trust, we suggest you whitelist those sites in your ad blocker’s settings. Whitelisting is the opposite of blacklisting. Instead of telling your ad blocker to block certain sites, you’re telling it that the list of sites are ones you don’t want to block.
Whitelisting is a good way to help guarantee the sites you like and trust continue to get the ad revenue they need. Even if you never click on the advertisements, many sites get some revenue by page views, making it still beneficial for those websites if you to allow their ads to show.